Fox News: The Televised Potemkin Village I read a recent article on Fox News and Roger Ailes in the New Yorker (not available online). It gives a history of Ailes’ activities. I knew Ailes worked for Nixon. I didn’t know the extent to which Ailes was part of the repackaging of Nixon—experience that Ailes put to good use on the alleged journalistic outlet he runs--Fox News. In order to make Nixon seem more human for the 1968 campaign, Nixon spoke to warm television audiences--audience members were pre-screened—they were by and large rank-and-file Republicans and gave Nixon enthusiastic responses. I remember a documentary on Nixon’s ’68 comeback that showed Nixon regaling the stacked-deck audience in one of these television appearances.
Before Rush Limbaugh had Ailes as his executive producer of his television show, Limbaugh didn’t know the lesson of rigged audiences. In 1990, Limbaugh did a guest appearance as the host of Pat Sajak’s show after it was announced that the show would be cancelled. The audience wasn’t pre-screened and many took issue with Limbaugh’s homophobic comments; the blustery bully was so shaken by people who talked back that he had the audience cleared from studio during a commercial break. As a producer commented, “He came out full of bluster and left a very shaken man. I had never seen a man sweat so much in my life.” However, it changed when Ailes ran Limbaugh’s television show in the 1990’s. The audience was packed with robots who cheered to whatever the porcine host had to say—even when Limbaugh called 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton the White House dog.
Fox News has Ailes’ fingerprints all over it. Ailes’ idea of balance is finding wimpy liberals like Alan Colmes to receive a paycheck for a beating (it’s no coincidence that the liberals on Fox News shows are weak; David Talbot wrote: “Years earlier, when hunting for a liberal punching bag to pair with Sean Hannity, Ailes had tried out a tough Salon writer. He apparently punched back so effectively in his audition that Fox picked bespectacled milquetoast Alan Colmes instead. Fox likes its liberals soft and chewy, the better to eat them, my dear.”). Debates on Fox News have all the thrill of a caged hunt. That’s what made the recent Simpsons parody of Fox News both funny and scary; the real Fox News is only slightly less biased that the parody—and people still believe that it’s fair and balanced.
Typical Limbaugh Filth I haven't listen to Limbaugh much lately. Here's something that Dan Kennedy caught: Limbaugh discussed the courage of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who tore off his own arm when it was stuck beneath a boulder. Here is what Kennedy reported about what Limbaugh said:
"You know, this is one of these stories, this is one of these acts of human courage, that people are going to strive to associate themselves with," Limbaugh intoned. "Such as Democratic presidential candidates. This is the kind of story — you know, you might have this guy in the audience and claim he’s one of your supporters or whatever. We might even hear from John F. Kerry, for example, that his Jewish grandfather was a mountain climber, and this story has reminded him that his Jewish grandfather was a mountain climber, and therefore he knows the rigors of this engagement, this enterprise, and can relate to what this Colorado climber went through. I mean, they’ll stop at nothing to build bridges of relatability to these acts of courage. They can’t cite many of their own." Heavy, theatrical throat-clearing. Commercial break.
A larger lesson should be learned here: The issue of a political opponent’s Vietnam era status is irrelevant to the hard right:
1) If you are the hard right’s political opponent who avoided the Vietnam draft (even if you opposed the war), then the hard right calls you a draft dodger (conveniently ignoring the shitload of Republicans who were in favor of the war and whose fathers pulled strings to keep them out of Southeast Asia).
2) If you are the hard right’s political opponent and you not only served in Vietnam but also spent years of your life in the Hanoi Hilton, you become the victim of a whispering campaign by Rove and company that you are mentally unstable because of your imprisonment. During the 2000 campaign, Limbaugh even had a parody commercial "The McCain Mutiny" that had John McCain as the paranoid Captain Queeg. John McCain, it’s time to leave the GOP.
3) If you are the hard right’s political opponent who served in Vietnam as a highly-decorated commanding officer, then the hard right will come up with a reason to question your competence as an officer—no matter how many medals you were awarded.
This reveals a fundamental truth: the hard right (which encompasses most of the Republican Party) cannot be reasoned with—it must be discredited and defeated.
One more thing: Limbaugh is a part of the Clear Channel Radio Network which went jihad on the Dixie Chicks because one of them had the audacity to give her opinion about George W. Bush. Clear Channel's Limbaugh besmirches the courage of a decorated war hero. Where's the outrage?
More Talk Radio Confrontation Thanks to American Politics Journal, Atrios, Blah3, and others who linked to my conversation with Drudge. For more talk radio confrontation, scroll down to my April 25 post that has me against a Fox News drone who was substituting for Bill O'Reilly. Enjoy.
Exclusive: Drudge Confronted About His Journalistic Misconduct Last night I got home from a shoot and heard Drudge gloat on his radio show about the trouble that Howell Raines and The New York Times are experiencing over former reporter Jayson Blair's journalistic misconduct. It was bad enough last Sunday when the gang at Fox News Sunday was unctuously discussing the matter (the participants included Paul Gigot and Ceci Connolly). I thought about Drudge: “Look who’s talking?” (Click here for my previous discussion with Drudge regarding his fast and loose approach to the truth).
So I called up and confronted Drudge about his own journalistic misconduct (this time I posed as “Joseph”).
DRUDGE: Line two, Joseph in Los Angeles, you’re on the air with Drudge.
SCOOBIE: Yo, Matt. I gotta tell you, I’m really amused by your talk regarding the journalistic misconduct at the New York Times. It seems like there are some stones being thrown from some glass houses there.
DRUDGE: You know, why not? Why not? I can throw just as many stones as they can. I mean, they’re sitting there mocking me. Why can’t I mock them?
SCOOBIE: Because you deserve to be mocked, considering--
DRUDGE: Okay, they’re the holy ones, I mean, I’m not sitting here [unintelligible] Have you found my fabricated stories yet, sir?
SCOOBIE: How about the fact that you didn’t divulge who gave you the misinformation regarding Sidney Blumenthal’s nonexistent domestic abuse? How about your not retracting the false report you put out that Enron’s Ken Lay slept over at the Clinton White House. That’s the nature of journalism and you didn’t abide by journalistic—
DRUDGE: The nature of journalism is to reveal your sources on stories, sir?
SCOOBIE: If they gave you--
DRUDGE: Joseph, that’s a direct question--
SCOOBIE: --misinformation it is your obligation to divulge who that is and to report people who give misinformation. That--
DRUDGE: Sir, Joseph, when have you ever in a bad story heard a news outlet reveal their source?
SCOOBIE: If it’s a libelous one, they’re obligated to. Sir, are you familiar with the journalistic--
DRUDGE: Joseph, You’re jumping all over the place. I’m asking you a direct question. When have you ever heard of a news outlet revealing a source—a confidential source—even for a bad story?
SCOOBIE: I have never heard of a story that was so egregiously libelous as yours. Give me a--
DRUDGE: I’m the biggest sinner of the bunch. I’m the one who is going to be put up on that journalistic cross and you’re going to put a crown on my head and you’re just going to let me stand up there and suffer. Is that right, sir?
SCOOBIE: I don’t want you to suffer. I just want you to tell the truth and retract stories that are false and to expose people who lie to you—and who, in effect, lie to the American people because you publish their allegations on your web site.
DRUDGE: And would you also apply that to other media? Do you want to know if a story has gone bad, you want CNN to reveal their source? You want the LA Times to reveal their source? You want all these outlets to reveal their sources on stories that you deem that have gone bad?
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. And they’re morally obligated to. The code of journalistic ethics indicates that you should do that.
DRUDGE: This is one of the biggest patronizers yet and I am his obsession. He’s knowing every story I’m writing—let alone stories I’m not writing. If you could see the stories I haven’t published, sir. If you could see the innuendo, the rumor, and the gossip that I’m not conveying—which I have ever right to as a citizen if I have sources. The First Amendment protects even falsehoods—as we see in the main press almost hourly—no, minutely. No, I’m the biggest sinner. If you noticed he is following the details of my reporting very closely for someone who is not taking me seriously. Here I’ve written thousands of stories and yeah I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve owned up to it. But as far as that one story with Sidney Blumenthal, sir, he ended up paying my side because he didn’t want to go into further discovery. And I knew he was in the wrong and I let him settle. Otherwise, I would have hung him out to dry and collected all of his advance for his Clinton Wars.
[DRUDGE GOES TO STATION BREAK]
REALITY: Blumenthal dropped the case because a group of wingnuts such as David Horowitz paid for Drudge’s legal fees while Blumenthal had to pay lawyers out of his own pocket. Considering that Drudge was the defendant in this libel suit he should be the one who knows that the First Amendment doesn’t protect libel. To clarify a point I was making, a journalist is not obligated to keep a source confidential if that source lies; in fact, it is the ethical obligation of a journalist to not only retract a false story based on a source’s perfidy but to name the source. I’m not the first person to make this observation. Drudge’s protection of a dishonest source puts him at odds with established journalistic practice and common decency.
The Last Word on William Bennett I have been busy standing back and enjoying this. Sometimes karma is slow. As a believer in karma and reincarnation, I believe that those behind the 2000 coup will be punished in the next life (though I pray every day that the punishment occurs in this life). However, with Bennett, it’s great to see instant karma in action. It would have been bad karma to laugh if Bennett contracted Lou Gehrig's Disease; however, it is appopriate to chortle upon learning that the pompous blowhard has Art Schlichter's Disease. Despite the columns in the National Review defending Bennett immediately after the Washington Monthly article, William F. Buckley came out recently and acknowledged reality—namely that Bennett’s lucrative virtue racket is as dead as dead can be.
I am praying that the sanctimonious butterball gets a clue and takes a 20-year vow of silence as penance. However, I’m not betting on it. The right wing masses are marks who gets conned again and again--for instance, Dr. Laura continues to berate her callers who confess to have had premarital sex even though nude pictures of the queen bee surfaced from her former paramour (I was unlucky enough to click on a site that had pictures of Schlessinger’s 1970’s fur pie; it still gives me nightmares).
Even though I have known Bennett to be a complete phony long before the gambling revelations (scroll down to my April 3 post), it is heartening that others know about it now. Here are the Bennett’s sins (which were plain to see long before the gambling revelations):
1.Hubris. Bennett studied the classics; didn’t he know that his attitude would lead to his downfall?
2.Selective Puritanism. The Virtue Czar also seems to see it as his birthright to give dispensation to sinners on the right at the same time he berates those on the left for lesser sins.
3.Encouraging people to be dour wet blanket killjoys.
4.Being a lying tub of shit
5.Using the concept of virtue as a partisan weapon. For example, despite being exposed as a liar, Bennett was part of the intellectually dishonest bandwagon that portrayed Al Gore as a pathological liar at the same time that George W. Bush was lying through his teeth (click here for a good recent article on the matter).
6.Taking Sun Myung Moon’s money. Giving credibility to Moon, in my opinion, is a lot worse than pissing away money on gambling that was “earned” from preaching virtue and self-restraint.
One thing that irritated me about Bennett was his notion that his Puritan view of virtue was the only legitimate model of virtue and the only one worthy of discussion. I believe that partially led to his downfall (I’ll discuss this later). Let’s look at another model of morality—namely my model. Unlike Bennett, I don’t presume that my model is the only way to approach morality (even though there is no less empirical evidence for my model of morality than Bennett’s Puritanical model).
My model starts with the four aims of life: kama, artha, dharma, and moksha. Kama refers to physical pleasure. Artha is material wealth. Dharma is the ethical framework by which one attains kama and artha (e.g., it is not dharmic to achieve kama by seducing another man’s wife). Moksha is more metaphysical and it refers to the ultimate goal of ending the cycle of birth and rebirth. This model works well for me but I don’t view those who don’t adhere to it as ipso facto immoral as Bennett does with his model.
This contrasts with Bennett’s anhedonic worldview that puts people (including Bennett himself) in punitive and compulsive cycles of behavior (for more on this, read the works of Abraham Maslow). Sitting alone blowing massive amounts of money on video poker while casino workers were laughing behind your back is pathetic. My entertainment budget is something like .000001 percent of Bennett’s and I have a hundred times more fun than he ever had.
I have a solution: if Bennett’s doormat of a wife gains some self-respect and dumps him, then for a modest fee, I would be glad to take Bennett out on the town and show him what fun is. We can crash some parties and meet interesting people (if Bennett were to invest in a couple films, he could legitimately tell women that he’s a movie producer). I can take Bennett to some yoga classes where he can meet some hot and in-shape babes (plus yoga would be great for weight loss and to loosen the kundalini blockage in the root chakra area--this will allow Bennett to unclench his sphincter muscles). I won’t charge much (which is good because the money from Bennett’s virtue scam will be gone soon). I can show Bennett the meaning of the word fun at bargain basement prices. How do I contact him?
Ha Ha On Amazon.com, someone listed in addition to William Bennett's The Moral Compass, a more appropriate book, The Slot Machine Answer Book: How They Work, How They'Ve Changed and How to Overcome the House Advantage. I'm glad Bennett is there for us to kick around.
Something To Hope And Pray For I apologize for not posting on a regular basis. As I noted previously, my phone service was cut off and I must focus on paying the bills and on projects that will pay. Blogging is great but it doesn't buy any wheatgrass at Whole Foods. One trend I am watching for and hope catches fire is media attention to George W. Bush's AWOL status. This would be great because it would have been partly spurred by Bush's shameless campaign stunt in the flight suit on the carrier, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Today's Daily Howler has something good on this. I am praying to God that bloggers can turn this into a Trent Lott-sized media event (it's not as if the mainstream media will without some prodding).
Bennett I haven't been able to post because I'm very busy. I have meant to write a post on Bill Bennett's gambling but I found that there are so many angles on this that I'm paralyzed--that's a good thing because I'm amused in so many ways. No problem--others have taken up the slack. I was particularly amused by Michael Kinsley's take in Slate. The fact that Bennett has the cosmic foot of karma up his butt is all the more amusing by the lame defenses of him--and the attacks on the Washington Monthly. Here's a sample of Jonathan Last's defense of Bennett in The Weekly Standard:
I don't understand what the big deal is. The news that Bennett gambles big-time isn't new. In 1996 Margaret Carlson reported that Bennett won $60,000 in a single outing in Las Vegas. Of course being old news wouldn't matter if it was a serious charge. But legal gambling is, well, legal.
The issue is not legality but it is one of a self-restraint and hypocrisy. Here we have a pompous ass who has made a lucrative cottage industry on lecturing the American people about integrity and restraint. I have always known Bennett to be a phony because he rarely if ever brings up the moral failings of Republicans (scroll down to April 3). But he is a complete hypocrite for taking money from gullible Americans who wanted to be more virtuous and blowing it on the slots. That is rich.
I'm Back My phone service is back on and I will post over the weekend. I am laughing my ass off over the article by Joshua Green in The Washington Monthly about self-appointed Virtue Czar William Bennett's out-of-control gambling habit--it's titled "The Bookie of Virtue." (via The Horse). It is hilarious in so many ways.